EDITOR’S NOTE: In April, Cindy Cockburn reported that her neighbor in St. Pete’s Old Northeast neighborhood, Roger Dow, had just been asked to join President Trump’s Recovery Task Force. Dow is president of the national, non-profit U.S. Travel Association and had visited the White House in March to discuss the catastrophic economic impact of COVID-19 on the hotel industry, its employees and U.S. economy. At the time he and Cindy spoke, he was looking forward to National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW), an annual observance slated for May 3-9 with the theme The Spirit of Travel. More recently, Dow attended a meeting in Orlando with Vice President Mike Pence and leaders of the tourism industry, during which Dow asked the administration to encourage domestic over foreign travel when Americans are able to travel freely again.
On May 4, Roger Dow and the U.S. Travel Association shared a document with the White House and all 50 governors called “Travel in the New Normal.” The document contains detailed guidance for travel-related businesses to help keep their customers and employees safe as the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The goal: to allow travel to safely resume as states and municipalities relax physical distancing guidance.
“We want political leaders and the public alike to see that our industry is setting a very high standard for reducing the risk of coronavirus in our businesses,” states the document, “and that the practices in place to achieve that standard are consistent through every phase of the travel experience. As travel reopens, travelers need the confidence that safety measures are in place from their departure to their return home.”
The well-being of employees and guests is always the No. 1 priority of travel businesses, Dow told me. But a secondary objective of the “Travel in the New Normal” guidance is to restore consumers’ confidence in the travel process, in the hope that travel demand will rebound quickly and the industry can help power a robust economic and jobs recovery.
“We will not encourage people to travel until public health experts and authorities have made it clear that it’s the right time to do so,” Dow said. “Our industry’s focus is on preparing for that moment, and on demonstrating that our preparations are comprehensive and informed by the counsel of top experts.
“The ability to travel freely is not only a fundamental part of the American way of life, but also supports the livelihoods of millions,” Dow said. “We are very determined to return to travel and the new normal as quickly as circumstances will allow.”
“The ‘Travel in the New Normal’ guidance — as well as the entire effort to produce this work — can serve as a model for collaboration between the business and medical communities that forges a path toward healing both the public health and the economy,” Dow said.
That guidance is focused on six main areas, with the document providing specific examples for each:
Travel businesses should do the following:
• Adapt operations, modify employee practices and/or redesign public spaces to help protect employees and customers.
• Consider implementing touchless solutions, where practical, to limit the opportunity for virus transmission while also enabling a positive travel experience.
• Adopt and implement enhanced sanitation procedures specifically designed to combat the transmission of COVID-19.
• Promote health screening measures for employees and isolate workers with possible COVID-19 symptoms and provide health resources to customers.
• Establish a set of procedures aligned with CDC guidance should an employee test positive for COVID-19.
• Follow best practices in food and beverage service to promote health of employees and customers.